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Survivor finally returned from Exile Island last night, and I couldn’t be happier. I needed a fresh episode more than La Mina needed nourishment. Yes, it’s been a while for us Survivor fans. Last time we saw this bunch of hungry reality stars, they had just sent Dan packing with a ridiculous Tribal Council that was supposed to be moving and patriotic but was more like long and boring. At least I could take solace in knowing that the wonderfully dysfunctional Casaya was now such a mess that the merge was sure to bring chaos. Or so I thought.The show began on the cold, dark Casaya beach. As usual, Courtney and Shane were bickering, this time over beddings and whatnot. Basically, Courtney wanted more blanket, and Shane didn’t want to give it to her. This led to assorted pissy comments, with Courtney ultimately turning away and trying to sleep — visions of beached tortoises filling her dreams.
The next morning, Courtney complained to any person and/or hermit crab in a five yard radius about how cold and wet she was the night before. I did feel badly for her. It was bad enough that she had to sleep in the cold and rain, but then to have be nestled next to Shane and his man-stank? I don’t wish that on anyone. Courtney then explained how everyone was huddled together, but when she tried to join in, Shane just kept elbowing her away. To be fair, he thought she was a giant tarantula trying to steal his thinking stump. Did I mention that Shane’s crazy?
Later, we found Bruce cleaning up his zen garden, much to the amusement of Aras. You’d think a yoga instructor would have more respect for Bruce’s spirituality, but then again, you’d also think a yoga instructor would, you know, do yoga once in a while too.
Meanwhile, over on Exile Island, Sally was still chilling out, waiting to be reunited with someone, anyone. She passed the time by sunning on top of that skull structure and occasionally digging holes in the ground. You’d think she was looking for the immunity idol (which Terry had already found), but little known fact: when bored, Sally actually digs holes for fun. Okay, I made that up, but I could totally imagine it.
Over at La Mina, the guys looked like they all might just keel over and die. Well, at least Austin and Nick. Terry was doing fine, as always. Their morning of malaise was soon broken up by a mysterious message that urged them to search the island for some luxury item. This excited the men greatly, with Austin proclaiming, “Marvin Gaye said it best, ‘Let’s get it on up in this piece!’” Not sure if those are authentic lyrics, what with the whole “up in this piece” bit there, but yes, I’m sure Marvin Gaye was referring to a treasure hunt in Panama when he wrote that song. I’m surprised Austin didn’t then say, “Well, time to start searching. Or to quote the legendary 50 Cent, ‘We’ll be up in dis bitch ’till we break daylight.’”
Well, the guys roamed around, eventually finding a boat moored on the beach. On this little vessel was some firewood and a crate which couldn’t be opened until La Mina merged with Casaya. Did you hear that? Merge! Well, since La Mina had become so La Worthless, the guys had to hop in the boat and paddle all the way to their rivals’ beach. The guys packed everything up and immediately began talking strategy. Basically, they needed to switch someone over from Casaya — and seeing how fractured Casaya was, this shouldn’t be difficult. If La Mina couldn’t shake things up, they were all a bunch of idiots. Ace in the hole, right? Right?
Anyway, the guys decided they would prey on Shane and Bruce. Terry, meanwhile, had his own strategies to deal with. He had to figure out what role his hidden immunity idol would play. You see, he didn’t want to use it until he reached the final four, but he noted, “if I need to use that thing strategically, then I’ll do it.” Uh, what other way is there to use it? As a shovel? A night charm?
Finally, the La Mina guys left camp — all to the sound of soaring, triumphant music. With all the fanfare, I thought Astronaut Dan might be returning for a second, but no. His pale figure did not emerge from the bush. The men then rowed across the sea, and as they approached Casaya, Austin commented, “I’m ready to meet some new personalities, get in there, start bobbing and weaving like Sugar Ray Leonard.” Seriously, he’s really going for the forced black celebrity analogies today, isn’t he?
Over at Casaya, the camp was in a state of total boredom. Their afternoon soon sparked to life as La Mina appeared on the horizon. Well, new guests coming to camp — what to do? “All of us just chowed the rice ’cause, ’cause we’re heathens, and we didn’t want to share,” Aras laughed. Gotta love that Survivor spirit! Shane then called the group together and made a quick pep talk about sticking together. Yeah, we’ll see how he feels five minutes from now when he’s hungry again.
Anyway, Terry, Nick, and Austin all arrived at the camp and were greeted with phony hugs and smiles. “They just welcomed us into their home!” Nick happily (read: naively) observed. Poor Nick. He’s just entered the innermost circle of hell. Moments later, another vessel showed up at the beaches, and our flaxen gal Sally hopped off, also joining the tribe. Wow! Everyone was together! This was the best Brady reunion ever!
Well, every good merge calls for a good feast, and the gang all opened that infernal crate and pounced on its savory innards. There were drinks and snacks and arts & crafts for a new flag. What else could a person want? (Except for electricity, running water, a refrigerator, shelter, bug spray, a car, some money, a tooth brush, a candy bar, maybe a cheeseburger, a pillow, some blankets, clean clothes, did I mention running water?)
Everyone then stuffed their faces with grub; although, no one can quite stuff their faces the way Shane can. I’m pretty sure he’s about three or four million years less evolved than the rest of us are from cavemen. Try this one out for size: eat with your mouth closed, SHANE.
After lunch, it was time to expand the shelter, and it didn’t take a genius to anticipate Shane getting annoyed with Terry’s take-charge attitude. There’s only enough room for one alpha-male on this island, buckaroo. And by alpha-male, I mean scrawny, paranoid lunatic. Sure enough, Shane told us, “It’s hard to tell, but I think that Terry does not have the Immunity Idol. Next time he doesn’t get immunity, he’s out.” Oh wonderful. This could only lead to a wonderful backfire.
My dreams of a total Tribal Council disaster came even closer to realization as Aras told Shane, “We’ll let Captain America take the lead.” (And yes, Captain America was their term for Terry).
“Let Terry build it [the shelter], then we’ll vote him off,” Shane responded. Excellent. You all shall perish!
Meanwhile, Terry began his official campaign to win over a Casaya member. Shouldn’t be difficult, given all the rifts, but then again, one can never underestimate Terry’s incredibly lame attempts at scheming. Well, actually, I shouldn’t say “scheming.” Terry doesn’t actually scheme. Instead, he offers deals. Dumb deals. For instance, he gave Bruce the chance to be top five! GREAT! That’s like that season (I think it was Palau) when someone offered a person to be top seven. Why not just offer someone top fifteen at that point?
Just in case there was any doubt on this savory deal, Terry then said he’d shake on it AND look Bruce in the eye. “I’m a mad of my word,” Terry said. Yeah, like that time he voted off Dan. Oh wait…
Sensing that Terry was trying to turn Bruce, Shane and Aras devised a little strategy to win back their Mr. Miyagi. They decided to make him feel like he was the leader, which meant the two guys kept saying things like “You’re the leader now, Bruce!” And because Bruce is something of a chump, he totally fell into it — not questioning why these people who had always been antagonistic to him were suddenly deferring to him on all questions. For sure, Bruce did notice that people were fawning over him a little more. He even bragged about being in a power position to us — always a dangerous move. Cocky swing voters never last long.
Well, when simple deal making doesn’t work, there’s always another way to turn someone: bash them in the face with a machete! Yes, in what looked like a fairly painful accident, Nick managed to strike Bruce right in the grill with his machete. Basically, he was sawing away at a piece of rope, and in a brilliant move, Bruce stood RIGHT OVER THE ROPE so that when it inevitably snapped, the machete went flying forward, swiftly chopping him in the face. This caused a gash in his lip and a chip in his tooth, and they way they were talking, I thought Bruce might need a special visit to the Exile Island Plastic/Oral Surgeon. But in reality, while it may have been painful, Bruce seemed to get over it pretty quickly, and his lip didn’t look so bad. Either way, not a great way to ingratiate yourself, NICK.
Later on “Merge Beach” (and yes, that was the overly technical name CBS temporarily named this campsite), woeful machete victim Bruce painted the tribe flag, and let me tell you something, this flag was about ten times better looking than any other homemade one in the history of the game. Normally the merged tribes create a garish concoction that looks a hair better than some pre-school hand paint disaster. Anyway, the new tribe was called Gitanos — the Spanish word for gypsies — which would have made sense had any of them been, you know, gypsies.
Sensing that Bruce may not be as easy to turn as he would have liked, Terry then tried to work his “magic” on Shane, offering him top six if he were to bring Cirie into the fold as well. Of course, Shane wasn’t into this offer because, well, it was completely dumb, but that didn’t stop Terry from approaching Cirie. “Our group of four would like to offer you and Shane the opportunity to take the burden of Tribal Council off your shoulders for the next two weeks,” he said. Why so formal? It’s not like this was an invitation to a garden party.
Luckily, Cirie saw right through this scheme, telling us, “It’s like a dictionary salesman. I mean, I already have an encyclopedia collection here, and you want to sell me a dictionary?” Sure enough, Cirie and Shane both turned down Terry’s wonderful invitation, thus ruining any shot they had at turning a Casayan. The problem here was that Terry was making random deals that really offered no upside to any of these people. He needed to scheme more — get in their heads. He and his cohorts needed to expose tensions, stoke the paranoia. At the very least, get them wondering what the pecking order will be like once the La Mina folk are gone. Once everyone’s sufficiently angry at each other, that’s when you make the deal. Gotta get them vulnerable.
At the immunity challenge, the tribe filed in, and Aras made a particular jackass of himself by sporting a high faux-hawk. Here’s the thing: you’re stranded in the wilderness. Fashion and style really don’t matter anymore. The fact that he actually went and put water in his hair to preserve his faux-hawk is just so sadly narcissistic. I’m surprised he didn’t fashion a Von Dutch hat out of palm fronds and seashells.
Anyway, this week’s immunity challenge was the first endurance test of the season. The survivors all had to climb up to a horizontal pole, latch on, and then hang on upside down for as long as possible. That’s it. Poor Cirie — she’d be done in about three seconds flat. Well, everyone climbed on up and assumed their positions. It sort of was like a modified elephant walk as nearly everyone had their heads stuck in someone else’s asses. An appropriate visual image for this show, I suppose. We then cut to the smoldering afternoon sun, and when we came back to the challenge, a whopping three minutes had elapsed. Wow. This was hardcore!
As predicted, Cirie fell first and took a spot on the sand. Seven minutes later, Probst engaged in his favorite pastime: provoking the players. “You start to feel your muscles cramp…” he said, hoping to get inside all their heads. Honestly, he just loves screwing with people. Soon Aras dropped, which was surprising. I figured a yoga instructor would be able to meditate through such adversity, but that’s assuming Aras actually is a yoga instructor, not some aspiring pretty-boy actor — like Shane. But then again, he didn’t need immunity, so who cared, right?
Well, Bruce and Sally dropped next while Shane bargained for food from Probst. Dude, you just ate at the merge feast. Maybe this guy has a parasite of some sort. Either that, or he’s just a total idiot. Yeah, probably that last one. Well, Probst said no food, to which Shane promptly grunted and dropped too. Oh, how I would have laughed had Probst then carted out a cheeseburger.
Danielle and Courtney gave up next, leaving only the three men of La Mina on the pole. After about twenty minutes, they began negotiating, but that really led nowhere. Ten minutes later, Austin dropped out, leaving Terry and Nick. It was a close race, but at the forty minute mark, Nick couldn’t hang on any longer. He fell, leaving Terry to win immunity. This meant that Probst got to drape the new immunity idol — or immunity bib, really — over Terry’s head. Terry LOVES immunity!
Back at camp, La Mina scrambled for some sort of last-ditch effort to save itself. Terry considered using the idol as a bribe — a stupid idea, if you ask me. Austin, meanwhile, saw the writing on the wall and could tell it would either be him or Nick going home. He approached Bruce and asked if he could have a prayer with him. When Bruce said yes, Austin suddenly flung his arms around him and embraced him, saying something about Jesus in the process. Bruce put up with it pretty well, but you could tell he was thinking, “Uh, I said we could pray, not make out.”
Austin then told us “I’m going home. There’s no question about it.” So clearly he wasn’t. But who would be?
Well, we then found Nick sitting by himself, saying that his one goal was to make it to the jury. That’s all he wanted. One more night. Sorry, Nick. You just sealed your fate. Adios.
As La Mina all sat around and twiddled their thumbs, Shane called a Casaya powwow to discuss their voting strategies. Basically, it came down to Nick or Austin. Well, in typical sore loser form, La Mina balked at this cocky assemblage, despite the fact that Casaya at least did it off to the side. Terry even chastised some of the people, asking if they could have been nicer about strutting their power. Oh be quiet, Terry. It’s Survivor, not the prom.
Well, because it was obvious that this would be a La Mina loss, Tribal Council wasn’t particularly exciting. Jeff grilled everyone about all sorts of things, but even he couldn’t get persnickety about anything this week. Austin revealed that during the immunity challenge, he was pretending to be weak, which was an odd thing to ‘fess up to, considering it was a secret strategy and whatnot. Still, everyone was SHOCKED by this development as we then cut to various people with their jaws hanging. Obviously, this footage was culled from some other parts of Tribal Council — maybe a time when Jeff revealed an inappropriate secret — like he has a third testicle or a nipple on his butt.
Probst then ventured into the rare world of sound effects as he said, “Shane, the second you guys found out there was gonna be no food to tempt you down, it was plop, plop, plop!” Sadly, this was not followed by a “choo-choo!” noise or a “Meeeow.” I don’t know why Probst would meow, but I’d welcome it. Nay, encourage it.
In an effort to spice up this Tribal Council, Probst continued to paint Casaya as an exceedingly cocky tribe. I think this may have been an attempted misdirection — one that would have us thinking that the bottom would fall out from under them — but considering that absolutely no camera time had been devoted to a possible Casaya ouster, we knew that this cockiness would lead to no big surprises.
At long last, it was voting time. The first four went to Shane, who looked like he might just flip out and punch something. Did he not expect that? He’s totally the type of Lex character that maniacally root out those who voted against him. Just when it seemed like Shane was on the precipice of going home, we suddenly got three votes for Nick. Well, four votes if you count “Nic.” I appreciated the producers making this seem exciting with a tie and everything, but c’mon, twelve seasons in — you can’t pull the wool over our eyes so easily any more. Sure enough, the last two votes went to Nick, and he was sent home. But wait! Maybe not! Probst asked if he had the immunity idol. Nick reached behind him, and for a split second, I actually thought that maybe Terry had given it to him. But no, it was just a fakeout. Nick brought his torch up to Probst and learned that the tribe had in fact spoken. As the expelled castaway walked away, he tossed some sort of garment back at the group and uttered something in the sort of semi-whisper/gulp you always wish didn’t come out right before you cry.
Perhaps the most random and amusing part of the entire hour came right at the end when Nick shared his final words. Not sure, but somewhere between Probst’s snuffer and the post-elimination confessional, I think Nick may have been abducted and brainwashed by a motivational speaker cult. He said, “All you kids in your mid-twenties that are in my situation — confused, not sure which direction life’s pulling you, just trying to find yourself — I urge us all: please be hungry, be foolish. Block out the noise, find yourselves. Be who you potentially are. And be true to your dreams and what you really want to do. If we all maximize that personal freedom, that will change the world.” He then added, “Oh, and Shane’s a douchebag.”
Okay, he didn’t say that last thing, but seriously — where did that come from? And how come we never knew that Nick was so “confused”? What did you think of the episode? And how do you think La Mina can get back in this thing?